After delivering his blockbuster vision, Peter finished his letter with words of encouragement and exhortation.
Encouragement and Exhortation
Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.
So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.
You therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.2 Peter 3:14-18 (NRSV)
Peter gave several instructions to his readers in how to respond to the oracle given him by God.
Strive to live in shalom.
They were to actively endeavor to live a life of shalom, that holistic, whole-life health and maturity that bespeaks wisdom, a life of physical healthfulness and mental mindfulness, incorporating joy and grace. Earlier, Peter had selected two traits to illustrate how he was exhorting them to live.
Godliness and holiness.
In their waiting, they were to anticipate Jesus’s return. Living every day in faith-filled expectation would make each day precious, not to be wasted, but to be lived to the full, as unto the Lord, in glory.
The Apostle Paul had also written about his concern that believers wait in this way, saying,
I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
. . . [that Christ may] present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.
. . . so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world.Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:27, Philippians 2:15 (NRSV)
The Apostle Paul had also had to admonish some believers who were waiting in eager expectation for Jesus’s return, but were not striving in the way Paul (or Peter) exhorted. Instead, they had sold everything they owned, quit work, and were relying upon others to support them. This was the opposite of shalom, for they had become a burden to their community.
Strive to value God’s patience.
It is a simple line, but heavy with meaning: and the long-suffering patience of our Lord esteem [as] salvation. The word Peter used, ἡγέομαι | egeomai, means to suppose, believe, consider, think as well as to count, esteem, deem, regard.
Peter’s instruction spoke to his readers’ anxious fretting which may have been turning to complaints and grumbling against God.
Not without reason!
Remember what the first century church was going through with Nero and the increasingly violent and systematic persecution they were dealing with. Christians were being tortured and murdered, killed for the sheer entertainment of it, ostracized from family, markets, businesses, places of worship, and more. They were experiencing epic tribulation matched with epic terror and horror as their daily reality.
Why could the Lord not rescue them now?
Because, Peter wrote, God is exercising long-suffering patience in order to give every person—even the worst of the worst—a chance to repent, to turn to the Lord and gratefully embrace God’s cleansing and forgiveness.
Do not disregard God’s delay, nor rail against it. Rather, hold God’s long-suffering patience in high regard, esteem it, for it is for the sake of salvation.
Strive to understand Scripture
Did you notice how Peter referred to Paul’s writings? Here it is again,
So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the –other scriptures-.2 Peter 3:15-16 (NRSV)
Do you see it now?
Peter equated what Paul had written with scripture. Paul’s letter were among the scriptures that some—the ignorant and unstable—twisted to their own destruction.
Peter, actually, had been that guy, briefly. He knew from personal experience what he was saying. He—an apostle!—had become influenced by the Pharisee party centered in Jerusalem. It seems Paul and Nicodemus were not the only Pharisees who had put their faith in Jesus. After Jesus’s resurrection and ascension, a great number of priests and apparently Pharisees as well, had converted to belief in Christ.
The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees . . .Acts 6:6; 15:5 (NRSV)
Paul had written extensively, indeed in all his letters, as Peter had said, about what the gospel of grace was, and how to live as one Body of Christ in the gospel. Peter, of all the apostles, knew best what Paul was writing and preaching because of the vision and experience God had personally given Peter.
Yet, even still, Peter had briefly lost sight of that vision, had become influenced by the ignorance of otherwise well-versed and well-trained believers—who had been teachers of the law, scribes, and spiritual leaders of the Jewish faith. But Christian faith, though there was a great overlap with Jewish faith, is also something completely new. A new creation.
Even stable Christians can be led astray if they listen to false teaching. It is every believer’s responsibility to check carefully the kind of person who is doing the teaching – do their lives reflect the indwelling Holy Spirit? And to check carefully what they teach – does it match up with what the scriptures say? Does it resonate with the leading of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit? Does it jibe with the teachings of Christ and of the apostles?
Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.Jude 1:24-25 (NRSV)
Knowing and living the truth prepares God’s people for the Day of the Lord
The whole purpose of salvation, of scripture, and of Christian teaching is to bring you and me into deeper and more intimate experience of Christ.
Knowledge of Christ and knowledge about Christ are not the same thing, though we do need to know about Jesus in order to have knowledge of Jesus.
Jesus helped Peter find his equilibrium. He was not the greatest disciple. He did not love Jesus more than the other disciples loved Jesus. But he was also not the worst disciple either, even though he may have felt like it when he had denied Jesus so publicly, three times in a row on the darkest night of Jesus’s life.
Peter was simply a lover of Jesus, and one called to feed and care for the Lord’s beloved ones.
His humility, openness to growth, willingness to change course, and gusto in fully embracing the calling Jesus gave him is a great example to live by.
[St. Peter Preaching the Gospel in the Catacombs by Jan Styka | By Jan Styka – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:JanStyka-SaintPeter.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1181389%5D